Students attempting to use refusing to work as a way to get their way

I guess this speaks to their home lives?

A couple times now I've had junior high students make a request that I say "no" too and then they respond with, "well then I'm not doing this project".

I usually just look at them and say, "Ok. It's your zero. That has no effect on me "

Today I told a 7th grader that he wasn't allowed to use glue and took the paper that he put glue on after he ignored me. He then said "then I'm not doing this project " and proceeded tear his drawing project in half. The rest of the class gasped and he looked at me waiting for a reaction. The situation was so ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh (I feel kinda bad about it now but it was SUCH a dramatic response) and say what I normally say. To further the drama, he continued to tear it into smaller pieces throwing them on the floor. I could tell he was looking right at me waiting for a reaction. I just ignored him and called for an admin to come retrieve him and to guide him to clean up his mess.

It's just wild to me that they think that what they choose to do or not do in my class weighs on me at all.

I just wonder if this speaks to how these kids get what they want at home. Do they just hold their caregivers requests hostage by refusing to do something else?

I'm not a parent so I guess I don't understand.

  • By - LGA83


I like that you didn’t play into the power struggle. TBH, this kid reminds me of one of my students (3yrs old) who does something similar. I tell her to do something, like clean up a mess she makes before going to another activity, she says “NO!”, I respond with “It’s not a choice. You can do X after you clean up.” And she replies back “Fine, I am not coming back to school EVER AGAIN.” In my head, I chuckle, because 1) she has little to no control over this. And 2) I get paid regardless, there are 16 other students in my class. To her, I shrug and say “Oh, that’s really sad. Your friends and I will really miss you. But you still need to clean up before doing X.” She always ends up following through within a few minutes after, but the response is SO dramatic. EDIT: fixed “filling” to “following”


My nephew is 4 and discovered the concept of hate. Using the potty? He hates it! Dinner? He hates it! Cleaning his room? He hates it! I guess this sparks a back and forth at home. With me he gets "that has been noted. Now go do x thing" and around in circles of him hating it and me saying sorry but you're doing it anyway until on about cycle 6 he storms off to go do it.


Sounds like a power struggle trip to me lol. You are handling the situation in a very developmentally appropriate way. 1) You are acknowledging the child’s feeling about the situation, showing that you cares and you are there to listen and support them. 2) You are reinforcing the boundary set in a calm manner with neutral language and does not assign bias or assumptions to their behavior or reaction to the boundary. 3) You repeat it as necessary and follow through on your end. 4) You maintain calm, are persistent and more stubborn than they are 🤣


Thanks! I make it a point to not argue or get into power struggles with kids. My power in the situation is the ability to stay calm. I read a thing a while ago that said something about "I'm not about to waste my blessings on y'all" or something like that. It's basically the mantra that I live by in my classroom


I’ve found it’s easier to stay calm and not react to kids who are NOT mine… 😫😂😫


Omg saaame! My kids fuel my temper but other kids I can keep my cool, remembering they are some other parent’s problem


I somehow have a class full of 11 year olds that got stuck at the developmental stage of a 3 year old. I don't know how you deal with 3 year olds all day. I don't have the patience for it.


Thank you lol. Fortunately, their outbursts tend to be on the shorter side because they don’t have much of an attention span or memory yet. I have a lot more Pari for small humans, I can deal with the 3 year olds. Middle schoolers give me nightmares (and so do the adults lol).


Exactly - I have some like this and I have to think that behaviors like this get a desired result somewhere (read: home). But nope. Not in class. I don’t love the screaming but I’ll be damned if I’m going to cave to a three year old. And I’m not going to lose one moments sleep over it either.


Your response was perfect! >. He then said "then I'm not doing this project " and proceeded tear his drawing project in half. I had a student do this once. He was mad about having to do a math task, so he grabbed it off his desk and tore it up as soon as I put it down for him. I smiled sweetly and gave him another copy, and he tore that up too, and then grabbed the one on his neighbour's desk and tore it as well. I keep a large stack of single -sided paper on my counter for scratch work, or free draw, so I took the entire pile, put it on his test, and told him to go ahead and have a good time. Like you, I was laughing because it was such a silly situation. He was mad because a. I wasn't upset and b. If he tore the paper up, he'd be doing what I had asked him to do, and he wasn't going to give me the satisfaction of that. Picture the red buttons meme. And yep, I called admin, and yep, he did the math in the office after he had cleaned up his mess.


I think you handled it perfectly. The kid wanted a power struggle, and you refused to engage. I'm the same way at this point (I teach high school). Kid doesn't show up for class and skips all the time? That's a choice. Not handing any work in? Also a choice. I don't take it personally. It's their grade and their decision, not mine.


I had a couple of kinders and firsties like this when I taught art. They’d cross their arms and say “I’m not doing that”, I’d just shrug and say “okay. You’re welcome to sit there the whole class then.” They were always a bit surprised I didn’t offer them something else to do and most would end up participating.


Yes. The classic dinner struggle. “I don’t like that.” Parenting mode choice: “Oh, sorry, what can I make you that you’ll like?” Or “Okay. But that’s the dinner we are having.” (Big, big caveat for dinners that are new / exotic / weird in which case it is, “Okay. But you have to *try* a decent amount *and swallow* before we will make anything else.”)


Kids need guidance and simple choices! They thrive on boundaries and having a choice makes them feel in control. Plus, it’s ultimately easier to deal with kids who understand choices and consequences than giving them what they want when they want it. I definitely suffered through some rough classes with kids who were clearly given whatever they wanted, but when they learned that I wouldn’t give in to whining and crying and tantrums, they became easy (or at least easier) to manage.


It’s straight out of 1-2-3 Magic for raising kids.


Agreed on all points. I don't take it personally, either. I just grade and enter their scores.


The skipping class dilemma… I’ve had students tell me that kids are skipping. It’s usually the kids that cause problems anyway. I don’t go look for them, I mark them absent and teach my lesson


"Cool. It's a lot easier for me to enter a 0 than it is to actually grade something."


My 8th graders get so mad when I thank them for the extra time I'll have since they chose to not do work.


I used to use this line!


my 4th graders get so mad when i say they make my life easier by not doing work because giving zeros is so much faster to input than actual grades.


That age group, their indignation is so funny. I don't know how you don't laugh at them.




What an excellent suggestion for making students accountable without nagging. I love it.


This is the way. I have a co-teacher that I have to occasionally walk back from jumping all over kids and getting bent out of shape when they won’t do any work. I never understand it. The consequence is built in, they get a zero.




Well I hate to say it but your school sounds awful. And I feel for you because that sounds like an awful situation to put you in. For what its worth, we finally made progress on our daughter’s school with the “one kid ruining an entire class” by filing suit. Our youngest is a stroke survivor and is on an IEP, and one student has been a nightmare in class with admin refusing to do anything about it. We filed suit for them essentially putting that child’s needs over ours and not following her IEP. Magically that kid was transitioned to an alternate program shortly after. We would have had no idea how bad it was without the teacher explaining it. So maybe the best solution for you is to be honest with the parents of the other kids in that class? Good luck either way




Of course teachers get them too. It's the law. Ridiculous.


We're seeing this over in the UK as well, almost like some form of weaponised incompetence. My favourite at the moment is that I'll always make them try for five minutes before I help because otherwise they don't try at all, and so many just sit there until that time is up. Then, they're surprised when they don't finish. Also, they're surprised that "help" is me making them think and not just telling them the answer. My co teacher brought a child up during our planning to miss his PE and complete a piece of work. She asked him to write a sentence again and correct the handwriting. He picked his book up and just kept ripping and ripping it until it was confetti - honestly impressive! Not sure how it works in America but our books are provided by the school and it was essentially all his writing assessment for the entire year - bit of an overreaction that's very difficult to fix over a sentence! He also snapped my pencil in half which okay fine but it was my personal one !!! No SEN, just a child who gets what he wants when he destroys things at home.


7th graders are wild this year


Amen to that. Worst in 20 years. Getting mad over working. “You’re not helping us.” Well, I won’t give you the answer, but lead you to the info you need to find the answer. Mad when they fail due to not studying. Mad when they have to stay over recess to complete missed work (they had a week to finish). It goes on and on…


Y’all can give zeros?


I teach HS but tell them that a 0 is always an option, and much easier to grade.


I’m not a teacher but I am the guardian /foster parent for a teen with reactive attachment disorder. I also am the guardian of my other two nieces and I have two bio kiddos. I have NEVER experienced this behavior with my bios and my younger nieces because they were taught that their choices have consequences. My teenager, however, had a rough upbringing and then fell into the ticktock rabbit hole that likely is responsible for the behavior you’re seeing. There’s a whole contingent of kids out there who have very permissive or nonexistent parents. They end up anxious and depressed with very little agency in their lives. Then, they congregate on social media platforms like tick tock and develop their own standards of social behavior. What your describing goes hand in hand with threatening self harm if they have their phone removed, or really any attempt to correct their behaviors. It’s infuriating and I wish there was a way to tell parents of small children to keep their kids off of these platforms. They think their self harming behavior, physical or otherwise, is your fault since you’re an authority figure. It’s like trying to keep a teenager from running into the street like a toddler. Over and over again


Then you find the people who insist that restricting kids from social media is going to stunt their social development, yet social media has stunted an entire generation’s social and emotional development. So here we are. Kids expect constant entertainment, parents are too busy to provide, so the kid ends up with a phone or tablet because heaven forbid a child be bored every now and again. Boredom is incredible for the brain. Kids come up with ideas that are outside the box, they actually (dare I say it) start figuring out how to be creative. Amazingly, when kids are left to their own devices, they interact with and learn from the world around them. With phones, however, they engage with a rectangle and moving pictures and never have to use logic or problem solving ever again!


Mine do this constantly. They want a pencil, no not that one, a brand new one with a perfect eraser and they need a stack of paper because they don't like only writing on one and when I refuse and say they're free to bring their own pencil and notebook they say they won't do their work. It has never worked. I only ever respond with "just makes it easier to grade" and yet they continue to do it. Which tells me it's working somewhere


I’ve occasionally had high schoolers do that. Luckily, they’re logical enough that they can usually comprehend why that doesn’t have the effect they want after you explain it to them. I remember having a conversation like this once with a junior (!!!): Me: “why don’t you do your work in Mr. Smith’s class? You’ve never refused to do work in my room, what’s going on?” Student: “That’s because I don’t LIKE Mr. Smith. I like your class.” Me: “… you’re refusing to do work for him because you don’t like him as a person?” Student: “Yes.” Me: “… but why?” Student: “Because I don’t LIKE him.” Me: “Are you trying to punish him by not doing his work?” Student: “Yes.” Me: “… but how does that impact him?” Student: *blank stare* Me: “The only thing that results from you not doing your work is that YOU fail the class and lower your GPA and have to retake it next year. How does that punish him?” Student: *opens mouth, nothing comes out* Me: “That punishes YOU, not him. He suffers zero consequences from you failing - he gets paid whether you pass or not. He already has his diploma; your grades don’t impact him at all.“ Student: *hamster wheels turning in brain* Me: “In fact, you’re actually doing him a favor and making his job easier because he doesn’t have to take the time to grade your work. You know how much time it takes to grade papers? He’s getting off easy because he has one fewer student he has to teach, AND he knows you’ll be assigned to another teacher when you retake the class, so all he has to do is wait it out and you’ll be someone else’s problem next year.” Student: “……. Ohhhhhhhhh.” I don’t remember if the kid ended up actually doing anything from that point forward, but the fact that I had to spell it out for someone who was old enough to drive…. 🤦🏻‍♀️


Lol this is known as the Willy Wonka response: https://youtu.be/W9ZD3_ppcPE


Last year when masks were still required in the school system where I worked the parents had their undies in a bundle and were planning on a walk out of sorts - where they all come at noon on Friday to take their kids home. I let admin know as it was on a parents FB page and we laughed for a good while about it. Like, you’re going to pick your kid up early on a Friday?! And this is supposed to be so upsetting to me that I will somehow get the state to change its mandate? It’s not just the students. There is a level of entitlement among so many in society that is astonishing.


(in the most deadpan, devoid of emotion voice you can) "Oh dear. No, god, anything but that. Whatever shall I do? My entire world is crumbling around me."


“I’ll shoot myself in the foot. I swear I will!”


It doesn't necessarily mean that it works for the kid at home. Kids behave differently with different adults. Some test their boundaries with each and every one. You handled it great. Best thing you can do is appear unimpressed.


Do kids still have summer school these days? Thankfully I eventually got my act together in life and graduated from college with solid grades but back in k-8 I had summer school several times for refusing to learn.


That’s exactly it. They constantly get into hostage negotiations with parents and the parents cave. I don’t negotiate with terrorists or teenagers.


It absolutley starts at home, and with the current culture. It's easy to dismiss these complaints as "old people yelling at the sky" but the numbers are in, and the newer generation is struggling in a lot of areas no previous generations sturggled with. As long as they deny the issues their facing, they'll continue to struggle. And their parents and culture will pat them on the back as they contniue to fall. It's sad to watch.


Unrelated, but I’ve seen you on this sub before and goddamn it if your profile picture doesn’t have my trying to clean the eyelash off my screen every time.


Getting that light mode punishment.


This behavior starts early and it starts at home. I’m currently going through something really similar with a student. He just refuses to do what the class is doing and throws violent fits about if. If I try to give them a consequence, the mom complains and says it’s not fair. Our children are doomed


Well played, well played


It doesn't necessarily mean that it works for the kid at home. Kids behave differently with different adults. Some test their boundaries with each and every one. You handled it great. Best thing you can do is appear unimpressed.


I raised 4 kids to adulthood. If they had ever acted like this, there would have been hell to pay! I am also a teacher. This attitude certainly speaks to what’s going on a home, but it may not be what you think. In my experience most of the kids that act this way are seeking attention.


It's the same old song. With this kind of behaviour, you only need to look as far as the parents, because it obviously works on them.


I'd also refuse if my teacher gave me an aneurysm from her title post. 😆 I've read it several times, each to no avail. LOL


Kids need to have a healthy fear of adults. Some don't.


I gave two freshmen the choice today to remove their non-uniform sweatshirt or to get dress coded. They both chose the the dress code write up. I couldn’t possibly care less, so we moved on. Some hills are worth dying on. This wasn’t one of them


Long term substitute doing a paternity leave PE gig k-6. The different attempts at nothing crack me up. I remind them that I get paid if they do activities or not and that it’s up to them not me. I hit ‘‘em with the “you don’t get to say ‘I’m not doing math’ so gym is the same.” Also I remind them that they might not need to know how to add unlike fractions later in life but they’re going to need their health. Finally I remind them of my gym rule #4: no whining. Rule #1 is don’t hurt me. #2 is don’t hurt classmate, #3 don’t hurt yourself, #5 is no screaming. Works well.


My daughter has oppositional/defiance disorder. She isn't rude (at first) but she can be very challenging for me at home and her teachers at school. She often engages adults in games of chicken - where she makes a threat like not doing the assignment etc and seeing how the adult reacts, the more the adult reacts, the less likely she is to follow orders- I've told her teachers countless times that my daughter needs 2 things. 1: consistent consequences and 2: care. I am a teacher for at risk students and the more the kid thinks I care about them, the less trouble I have in general. A zero would not bother my daughter at all unless she knew I'd be disappointed.


>A zero would not bother my daughter at all unless she knew I'd be disappointed. That has to come from you, not the teachers. I can't speak to what disappoints YOU. Only YOU can do that.


IMO, this disorder stems from environment more than from genetics. Kids aren’t just “defiant” from birth.


Any evidence for this?


They can be


Which professionally trained psychologists and child development researchers concur?


All of them… duh!


Probably should round them all up for a through review of the DSM-5 then.


Nah… sounds too boring.


What I mean to say is she is still young (11) and hasn't yet associated academic success with a better chance at a good job. She knows what my expectations are and she does her best, she really does but a zero does not bother her. It bothers me and so she puts effort in. Is that little clearer? It's a complicated concept


Sorry you are dealing with that. She is either going to get a lot of zeros or learn to care what other people think of her. Most teachers aren’t going to mother her if she is acting like this.


I'd say that my daughter is dealing with it more than I am, I am trying to teach her about life! but thank you anyway. I don't want or expect her to be treated special. In fact I want her behaviour to have serious negative consequences and I want them ASAP! the best way for a person with her difficulty to learn is, unfortunately, for it to hurt. She is very smart and needs to learn to be responible.


Academic succeess = good job? But we're all teachers and we were all academically successful. (not a criticism of you just a joke)


I love my job but I'm a teacher in Canada. The conditions are much better than in some states as I understand it


Yeah, our shit is falling apart and has been for a long time.


Do choices work for your daughter? I've had some success with some ODD kids by giving them a choice of activities that all cover what I need. For example if the class are doing a worksheet I might offer a choice of the worksheet, a different worksheet, or a textbook exercise.


The 4th choice would be doing the work during detention but I'd hope not to get to that conversation.


At home yes, with regular things but I won't ask her teachers to prepare extra things. Although I will suggest it if they happen to have choices to offer. Thank you


I don't tend to prepare extra as such, I just have a range of options. It doesn't take me long to find the page in the textbook and I tend to have a few similar activities for kids who finish quickly. Also I've been doing this a long time so I have a lot of hoarded stuff that I don't always use but it's there as back up.


In the last 7 years the whole world has turned political. People are talking politics in grocery stores with strangers. Kids see that. Kids hear how the politicians, the rich and powerful, are getting their way. So they do it, too. Within a few years, they’ll figure out it’s the select few who get that treatment and they’re mostly not part of the group.


In some cases, the kid may have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, where they absolutely *can't* comply. Their brain won't let them. Kids like this will do the opposite of pretty much anything you suggest, even if it benefits them. The goal for them is not winning a power struggle so much as not losing one. And no amount of consequences or incentives will work. They themselves have to make the decision to do whatever it is you're asking. Source: am a parent of a child with ODD.


Parents don't have the temporal limitations. I.e., the bell never rings. Imagine after working with your 200 children all day, various administrators, the commute going home, living with that little terrorist, that has trashed the house, left a pile of dishes and/or food packaging, hasn't showered or performed any personal hygiene. You might well succumb to negotiating even the smallest of tasks just to be able to sleep with one eye open....js Forgive the grammar r/teachers, this is a rough draft, for a post in a random feed that popped up.


IME kids act the opposite at school to what they act at home


You can do it now, or you can do it in detention is my usual answer. However I'm dealing with teenagers mostly.


I always respond with "Okay, that's cool." They tend to get confused and a little excited and ask if the assignment is actually optional, but then I just tell them "It's not, but I can't force you to do it. However, I can force a zero that you'll have to explain at home and your parents know me..."


When I was early in my teaching career, I had a few students that straight up refused to take a test on test day. I had no idea how to manage that. I just sort of fumbled, and told them sure, take it tomorrow. Guess what, they were not ready the next day either! I know better now. I will take the student's test, assign them a zero and make a notation in the gradebook about what happened. They get the picture real quick.


My three year old nanny kid pulls this kind of stuff. Doesn’t work on me, but I see their parents give in sometimes. Guess who they behave better for? Boundaries are the best